Practice profile: Chicago dentists build vision of success
As soon as you walk into the reception area of Dentologie, you’re aware that little about this dental practice could’ve happened by chance. From the master craftsmanship of an artfully placed table made of Wisconsin wood to a ceiling sculpture engineered from the recycled steel of a Detroit auto plant, the layout clearly departs from the dictates of what one associates with a traditional Midwestern dental practice.
Such design, arranged within a former art gallery, is just one of many areas where Dentologie founders break with convention. Best friends since high school, Dr. Suhail Mohiuddin, Dr. Oussama Founas and Dr. Hany Kurdi shared a practice vision: Create a practice to serve young, educated, thriving professionals. Now, just three years after opening, that demographic makes up 70 percent of Dentologie’s patient base.
“Our vision was to build a practice grounded in accessibility and customer service that we would want to go to,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. So inclined, they veered away from following some of the more common precepts, such as opening where the dentist-to-patient population ratio is low. Instead, they built Dentologie on a corner of Chicago’s busy South Loop amid and within one-quarter mile radius of nine other dental practices.
“We looked at the population and the neighborhood and realized that this was a place we could reach our practice vision,” explained Dr. Mohiuddin. To help meet their goals of accessibility and customer service, the practice is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, with some surgeries scheduled on Sunday. The schedule means most patients can routinely plan for an appointment time.
Founders worked on creating a great web presence (www.dentologie.com), and it paid off. Eight months after Dentologie’s website was launched, the practice was attracting 100 new patients per month; more than 70 percent now scheduling their appointments online, mostly after 10 p.m. In addition, patients are encouraged to contact clinicians via email with follow-up questions or concerns, further enhancing the practice’s accessibility and customer service.
“Quick communication fosters trust,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. In following the spirit of that conviction, the reception staff aims to respond to patients within 15 minutes of receiving an email sent to the office.
Practitioners also build relationships with people in the community through special events that aren’t centered on dentistry. Dr. Mohiuddin and his partners live in the community and regularly run into their patients in the neighborhood. Nearly 80 percent of their patient base resides in the vicinity. In describing the marketing budget as extremely low, Dr. Mohiuddin asks, “What better marketing than for your patients to see you in the neighborhood? We become like friends.”
That personal touch is further demonstrated with the take-away Brush Box patients take home after a visit. Instead of the standard brush, paste and floss packet, patients receive a box of products unique to their tastes, which may include such items as specialty toothpastes from around the world, “staff favorites” of lip balm, or even smile-enhancing lipsticks.
Rotating TVs around the building broadcast popular sporting events even when the office is closed, which also increases neighborhood awareness about the practice. Dr. Mohiuddin said they got a lucky marketing break their first year in practice when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup title and many people gathered around the building.
However, the three founders didn’t rely on luck to reach any of their goals. They had student loans to pay off after graduating from dental school. Knowing each other well, they understood that each of them was innately entrepreneurial and respected each other’s business strengths. They streamlined division of duties with Dr. Kurdi taking on human resources and hiring, Dr. Founas managing finances, and Dr. Mohiuddin working on marketing and external relations.
“Each of us knew what we were good at and took on that portion of the practice,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. From starting up with three dentists, two assistants and a single hygienist, the practice is now has 24 employees, including four general dentists, an oral surgeon, a periodontist, five hygienists and a team of dental assistants and office managers.
“To get the best and nicest staff, we hire on personality,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. “Most of the customer service skills we seek aren’t teachable, and we usually know within five minutes if a candidate may be a good fit for the practice. As a result, we have little staff turnover.
“It’s what I’m most proud of,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. “We have really good people.” It’s all about our team and the uniqueness of our brand, our distinction as a practice.”
With some 1,500 views of their web page on Yelp and about 250 new patients each month, Dr. Mohiuddin credits business advice sought outside the dental field for some of the practice’s explosive success and suggests other new dentists do the same.
Ready to expand after just three years, Dentologie founders purchased the space next-door this year to add 12 new operatories to the original six, and they are opening a new location in Streeterville, a well-established Chicago neighborhood just east of the Magnificent Mile comprised of cultural venues, restaurants, hotels, professional buildings, universities and medical facilities.
How does Dentologie make its decisions, track its progress and offset its negatives? Look to future issues of Dental Practice Success to learn about the practice measurement tools they use that also may be useful to you in your practice.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Dental Practice Success. It was written by Arlene Furlong, the consulting editor of Dental Practice Success and a Chicago-based freelance journalist specializing in practice and research news for dental and medical professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.